Article updated as of February 8th, 2020.
Background: On December 31st, 2019, a strange set of pneumonia cases was reported in Wuhan, China, and in the following week, the 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified. As for where it originated, there were a few early reports implicating an animal-to-human infection, which transitioned into human-to-human infection, although the exact origin has yet to be pinpointed. In the following weeks after the first reported illnesses, hundreds of respiratory illness-related cases in and near Wuhan began to pop up, including cases where healthcare workers themselves became infected while working to treat the influx of patients. Currently, the death toll is at least 80 in China and rising by the day.
Current standing: As of Saturday, February 8th, 2020, there have been at least 12 cases of 2019-nCoV reported in the United States, all involving travelers who had visited Wuhan and individuals in extremely close contact with said travelers, although more cases are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, one American with the novel coronavirus has just passed away due to the virus. Still, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Based on current information, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCov to the general American public is considered low at this time.”
Despite the low immediate health risk, both the CDC and World Health Organization are responding to the situation seriously and have taken multiple precautions to sequester the virus’s spread and discover treatments. On Thursday, January 23rd, the CDC issued a level 3 travel alert for Wuhan City to contain the outbreak and limit the viral exposure to any travelers. In addition, as of February 4th, scientists have developed a test to diagnose 2019-nCov from serum samples to make identifying the virus much quicker and more efficient. The CDC is now sending out test kits domestically and internationally for healthcare workers to properly test samples that are suspected to contain the 2019-nCov. They continue to study the virus in cultures for more information about how it works and how to combat it in hopes of ultimately creating a vaccine. The CDC has begun to screen passengers at major airports hosting flights from Wuhan in an attempt to identify any possible afflictions as soon as possible. Since the outbreak is relatively recent, the situation continues to evolve. Please reference the CDC’s updates for the latest news on the outbreak.